Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pseudonymity and its discontents

So it looks like I have tenure: I returned from a quick weekend trip to NYC to find a letter from RU's prez stating as much--and outlining such things as the effective date, the amount of my raise, and so forth. I'm not sure I'll truly believe it until I get the letter from the chancellor and/or see the raise reflected in my take-home pay, but since I was never really worried about getting tenure I'm not really worried now; I'm just waiting to feel different, I guess.

This month also marks my seven-year blogiversary: I started blogging as I was wrapping up my dissertation and preparing for my first full-time teaching job; a year later, after being offered my current job, I moved to this site. And here I am still.

I've never actually grown bored with blogging, though I've often figured that I would, someday: surely I'd eventually run out of things to say, or my audience would drift away, or I'd find a newer and more satisfying form of navel-gazing. None of that has happened yet, though it still might. I might also start blogging differently, or about different things, though I have no specific plans to do so.

The one change that I do expect to make in the near future is to link my blog identity more closely to my real-life one. That doesn't have to do with tenure, though getting tenure is a nice symbolic point at which to make this shift; it's been at least five years since I wrote anything in the expectation that my pseudonymity was secure or anything that I'd be uncomfortable having linked to the real me. I assume that anyone who doesn't already know who I am--but who wants to--could pull up most of my biography in 15 minutes on Google.

And many people have: I've made numerous professional connections through this blog over the years, and my blog has also helped to strengthen many pre-existing real-world friendships; some readers became friends and some friends became readers. (Hell, I even got to know my eventual spouse better as a result of this blog). But when I started blogging, all the academic bloggers I read were pseudonymous. For a very junior academic, pseudonymity was thus both personally comfortable and socially normative.

The newer generation of Early Modern bloggers and tweeters, however, mostly write under their own names. I have no intention of making this a specifically Early Modern blog, but I'd like to be more active in those conversations elsewhere on the internet and have my peers know who I am. Moreover, while my blog was once my primary link to my larger professional community--the place where I'd ask for advice, share conference gossip, and that sort of thing--I now use Facebook or Twitter for most such crowdsourcing and professional chit-chat. But my Facebook account is under my real name. And my Twitter account is under this name.

I haven't figured out exactly how I'm going to fuse my identities; maybe I'll just put up a link to my department profile on the sidebar and call it a day. But at this point, the pretense of pseudonymity feels like more trouble than it's worth.


Sisyphus said...

Congratulations on the tenure!!!!

Now who are you again? ;)

scr said...

I feel your pain. I used to use a pseudonym, then switched to my real name for most forums and the like, then switched BACK because some of them are, frankly, not the kinds of places you want to use your real name. The problem is, it's hard to keep a pseudonym unless you use it everywhere (ie, what if you link to, say, a YouTube video you uploaded under your *real* name).. and sometimes feels like more effort than it's worth.

I've often considered starting a tech blog, to keep track of problems I've solved over the years, to help myself remember, and to aid anyone who stumbles across it. That kind of thing, of course, I'd want my name on, because of the professional reputation you mention.

It's always a tough spot, because you don't typically want your name associated with anything and everything, but it's so hard to keep separate that it's easier not to try.

And, incidentally, congrats on your tenure!

-your brother.

Veralinda said...

Wow, that wins the prize for the mother of all subordinate clauses. The only thing I have to say to all of this is: CONGRATULATIONS ON TENURE! (But then, I already know who are in real life).

Psycgirl said...

Congratulations on tenure!!!

Dr. Koshary said...

Congratulations on tenure, even if you knew it would be smooth sailing!

Susan said...

Yay for tenure!

One thought on pseudonymity (from someone who figured you out from hints you had dropped) is that it means someone has to work to do that, which may give you a bit of distance?

Bardiac said...

Congrats on tenure! Great news :)

Flavia said...

Thanks, peeps!


Yes, that's exactly right. I don't want or need any kind of professional "credit" for my blog--I can't imagine ever listing it on my C.V. or annual report--but if I'm engaging in real professional conversations here, at least sometimes, and writing posts that (again, at least sometimes!) I'm pleased with, I guess I do want for those identities to be integrated and for the professional friends I interact with online to at least have access to the fuller range of my online conversations and professional self-fashionings.

For instance, there are people I follow on Twitter, with whom I'm conference-friends in real life and with whom I regularly interact on Facebook, but who don't know me as Flavia and who rarely or never engage with me on Twitter--I presume because I'm some weird pseudonymous person they think they don't know. And yet I rarely want to drop such people an email saying "hey! Flavia is ME!," because that becomes a whole THING: there has to be conversation about why I have a pseudonym, and it feels like a sad desperate bid to get them to read a blog they've never heard of when all I actually wanted was to bond over some idiotic conference speaker we both heard, or trade notes about which textbooks we use in our Milton classes, or whatever.

Susan: yes, I've felt that way, historically--that the veil of pseudonymity was so permeable that it didn't prevent me from knowing and being known by the readers in my subfield who wanted that kind of relationship. But, see above. Pseudonymity has come to feel like, if not a barrier, at least a hindrance to some of the conversations I want to have.

life_of_a_fool said...


heu mihi said...

Hey, congratulations!

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Congrats! And for the record I have no idea who you are or where you teach.

Tenured Radical said...

Congratulations on the tenure: welcome! I do know who you are and have been deputized by the cognoscenti to let you know that the fez is in the mail, with secret handshake instructions to follow.

As to pseudonymity: as you may recall, my cover was blown so I came out as an alternative to killing the blog and was glad I did so. I think a link to your real identity is just fine. What I will say is that the professional credit thing is not such a big deal, but the publicity is -- when people know who you are, they ask you to do things -- give talks, come to digital humanities events, write for digital and non-digital locations. You can also promote your own work in a more shameless way. For example, I did an event around my new book and a number of people came because they were curious about who I really was as a scholar.

Doctor Cleveland said...

Man. The fez. That's when you've arrived.

Congratulations, Flavia!

phd me said...

Congratulations on tenure! Even if you weren't nervous about it, and even if you don't feel any different, it's awfully nice to have that letter.

I really appreciate where you're coming from with this post. I was just tenured myself; I've been blogging almost 8 years; and I'm feel a little wishy-washy on my pseudonymity. Things definitely change if you blog long enough, I guess, so it's nice to follow someone else in a similar position.

Withywindle said...

Congrats also on tenure.

I say you should create more pseudonyms and more blogs, and revel in technology-aided schizophrenia. E.g., Sorority & Sockpuppet; Donne & Damnation; Quip & Quill, etc.

What Now? said...

Hurrah on the tenure!

Flavia said...

Phoebe: sure, but I presume you don't care to know. My point is that them what does could figure it out with pretty minimal effort, given what I reveal.

TR: "The fez is in the mail." You wouldn't lead a girl on, would you? I long for a fez.

And yes: I had given some thought to the usefulness of being a nym rather than a pseudo- when it comes to shameless self-promotion.